Refusal to continue trial because of late attempted Substitution of Attorney upheld


4/27/16  In a recent Division Two case the Court of Appeals upheld the trial court’s refusal to continue a jury trial because the defendant substituted a new private attorney 9 days before the trial date.

 

In State v. Ramos, the defendant was charged in October, 2013, with prescription drug forgery offenses.  On July, 28, 2014, 9 days before the scheduled jury trial date of August 5, 2014, the defendant hired a new private attorney who attempted to be substituted as defense counsel.  The defendant also asked to have the trial continued because the new private attorney was not prepared for trial.  The trial court refused to continue the trial, however, said the private counsel could serve as a Knapp counsel (where an attorney acts as advisor to the trial attorney but does not act as the actual trial attorney).  The private counsel agreed to be a Knapp counsel, and in that capacity participated in the proceedings.

 

The issue is significant because a defendant has a constitutional right to be represented by a private counsel of their own choosing.  On appeal, the court of appeals held it was not an abuse of discretion for the trial court not to continue the case to allow more time for the private counsel to prepare for trial.  In doing so it described the defendant’s actions as dilatory and said as early as November, 2013, the defendant had said he wanted to hire private counsel.  The court of appeals said the defendant had not offered any reason why he had waited that long to retain private counsel and it appeared that the reason for the requested substitution of counsel and motion to continue on July 28, 2014 was for the purpose of delay, which is not acceptable.  The court of appeals also emphasized that the private attorney as Knapp counsel had actively participated in the proceedings.

 

The case is at:

https://www.appeals2.az.gov/Decisions/CR20140396Opinion.pdf

 

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